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270 of 278 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Source of Happiness is Within You, August 16, 2004
This review is from: The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living (Hardcover)
I have always had a lot of respect for the Dalai Lama and admired the fact that he radiates so much genuine compassion and tolerance despite the many hardships that he has faced in his lifetime. I believe that this book is the essence of this man's being and his outlook on life. It encompasses many of his core beliefs and serves as an inspiration to everyone, irrespective of religious affiliation or spiritual belief.

This book is not written by the Dalai Lama himself, but by Howard C. Cutler, and is based on his numerous conversations with His Holiness. Dr. Cutler provides the "western", science-based perspective on the buddhist monk's teachings. While his naivete gets to be annoying at times, he helps relate the Dalai Lama's teachings to our everyday lives by making them less abstract, more practical and actionable.

"I believe that happiness can be achieved through training the mind... Generally speaking, one begins by identifying those factors which lead to happiness and those factors which lead to suffering. Having done this, one then sets about gradually eliminating those factors which lead to suffering and cultivating those which lead to happiness." These words contain the essence of the entire book. A premise so elegant and simple that it might be easy to dismiss at first, and yet so powerful. The more one thinks about their true meaning, the more one begins to understand that these words, in themselves, hold the answer to the purpose of our lives.

The idea that happiness is the product of our mind, rather than of our objective situation, is hardly new. Yet, this book is able to explore this notion to the depths that I had never comprehended before. In particular, the distinction the Dalai Lama so eloquently makes between happiness and pleasure is especially enlightening. After all, it's the very things that bring us pleasure, that cause us unhappiness in the long term. Therefore, His Holiness says, one ought to always ask oneself before making a choice: "Will this bring me happiness?" I performed this simple practice for just a few days, and noticed immediate results. While I normally would do certain things without thinking, I have now become quite conscious of the effect that my own actions will have on my life down the road. Even such a simple thing as doing the dishes, or making that unpleasant yet necessary phone call, or buying something that we don't really need - each one is a choice that, once made, reverberates through our life and either brings us happiness or discontentment. This simple shift in perspective is a very powerful tool in bringing about real, positive change in your life through small, yet deliberate actions. It is by making these actions a habit that one is able to truly achieve happiness.

Of course, in order to be able to work towards happiness, one needs to understand what it is that will bring them happiness in their personal life. This can be likened to having a "mission statement" that encompasses many different areas that, when all balanced and fulfilled, lead to a happier life. These ultimate goals, the Dalai Lama teaches, should be used as a compass to align you daily choices with in your pursuit of happiness.

In addition to these very powerful meditations on the nature of happiness, the book stresses the importance of "human warmth and compassion" as integral components of achieving happiness through increased intimacy and deeper connection to others. The book also explores the "demons" that often prevent us from finding happiness, such as pain and suffering, anger and hatred, anxiety and low self-esteem. While you may not necessarily be afflicted with all of these "demons", reading this book will help you avoid them or enable you to help others who are suffering from them.

Overall, I would wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone on a spiritual journey, in search for a meaning of life, or simply looking for simple words of wisdom in our increasingly complicated and materialistic age. This is one book I know I will personally refer back to again and again for inspiration and guidance.
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Tracked by 3 customers

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Showing 1-7 of 7 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Sep 20, 2009 10:06:00 AM PDT
40 Something says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 8, 2011 7:29:26 PM PST
TW says:
This is a fantastic review, thanks for sharing.

Posted on Sep 18, 2011 7:03:07 PM PDT
S. Spilka says:
Your review is very thorough and clear, and that's why I can respond to it without having read the book.
What the Dalai Lama says is rather nonsensical, in my view; I know that this may be regarded as sacrilege by some, but this is my true opinion. Of course, we know almost intuitively what will bring us happiness, and what will bring us suffering. But how often do we control the outcome? Tell hunger victims, tell Syrian protesters, dying by the thousands, tell refugees, tell our own poor and unemployed that they only have to "eliminate" from their minds the factors that lead to suffering, and they'll be happy. This is infuriating nonsense. The Serenity Prayer starts with the following: "Give me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change." And there are many such things, most of the time. I haven't read the book, so I'll reserve final judgment, but I must say that the Dalai Lama has been grossly over-rated. I heard him speak a number of times, and he has never said anything extraordinary, or even helpful.

Posted on Oct 1, 2011 10:21:48 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 1, 2011 11:17:27 PM PDT
Have you seen a documentary called "10 Questions for the Dalai Lama"? It's very good. Also try a book called "A Very Short Introduction to Buddhist Ethics, by Damien Keown.

And perhaps the best introductory book on ethics I have ever found is The Ethics Toolkit: A Compendium of Ethical Concepts and Methods

Yes, it's an excellent book. I read it about a year ago. It gave me much more clarity on Buddhism than I'd had before. Have you ever heard of the "The Ethics Toolkit," by Baggini and Fosl.

If you want to learn about ethical concepts beyond those that are central to Buddhism, it's the place so start. Below is some information about it as well as a transcript of it's table of contents.


The Ethics Toolkit provides the conceptual tools to cut through biases and unreasonable arguments and get down to moral truth. It can help anyone, regardless of religious or cultural background, formulate a sound ethical argument as well as as reveal the flaws of an unsound one.

It's the best introduction to the field of ethics I've ever found. Baggini and Fosl both have Ph.Ds in philosophy and are both philosophy professors. Their book is a marvel of utility. It can be read cover to cover or used as a reference book. It was the third introductory book on ethics I bought and is by far the best.

The book is divided into five sections. In each section the terms are arranged in alphabetical order. You might think that arranging terms alphabetically would be so arbitrary as to interfere with continuity and context, but it doesn't. As it turns out, ethics is a collection of very specific concepts, each of which can be examined either singly or in the context of related concepts. And when related concepts are applicable, the subheading refers the reader to them through cross-references. So the alphabetical arrangement of terms in each section presents no difficulties to the reader in grasping the material. In fact, I think it makes things easier.

Here's the table of contents for The Ethics Toolkit:

Aesthetics, Agency, Authority, Autonomy, Care, Character, Conscience, Evolutions, Finitude, Flourishing, Harmony, Interest, Intuition, Merit, Natural Law, Need, Pain and Pleasure, Revelation, Rights, Sympathy, Tradition and History

Consequentialism, Contractarianism, Culture Critique, Deontological Ethics, Discourse Ethics, Divine Commande, Egoism, Hedonism, Naturalism, Particularism, Perfectionism, Pragmatism, Rationalism, Relativism, Subjectivism, Virtue Ethics

Absolute/Relative, Act/Rule, Bad/Evil, Beneficence/Non-Maleficence, Cause/Reason, Cognitivism/Non-Cognitivism, Commission/Omission, Consent, Facts/Values, The GOlden Mean, Honor/Shame, Individual/Collective, Injury, Intentions/Consequences, Internalism/Externalism, Intrinsic/Instrumental Value, Legal/Moral, Liberation/Oppression, Means/Ends, Metaethics, Normative Ethics, Moral Subjects/Moral Agents, Prudence, Public/Private, Stoic Cosmopolitan

Alientation, Authenticity, Consistency, Counterexamples, fairness, Fallacies, Impartiality and Objectivity, The "Is/Ought Gap", Justice and Lawfulness, Just War Theory, Paternalism, Proportionality, Reflective Equilibrium, Restoration, Sex and Gender, Speciesism, Thought Experiments, Universalizability

Akrasia, Amoralism, Bad Faith and Self-Deception, Casuistry and Rationalization, Fallenness, False Consciousness, Free Will and Determination, Moral Luck, Nihilism, Pluralism, Power, Radical Particularity, The Separateness of Persons, Skepticism, Standpoint, Supererogation, Tragedy




Posted on Aug 31, 2012 8:21:14 AM PDT
Shyam Kumar says:
You give an excellent summary of the book. Keep sharing your wisdom and knowledge!

Posted on Dec 29, 2013 11:53:12 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 29, 2013 11:54:33 PM PST
bs says:
30 Quotes For Powerful Living- Using Heart's eye(motivation,Inspiration,leadership and success) Thanks for the great review I will read it and get inspired by the true master. I know how difficult it is to forfeit the kingdom of Tibet and yet find happiness and these things can be done only by true master who ever practices love,patience and forgiveness.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 1, 2014 9:38:03 PM PST
[Deleted by the author on Feb 1, 2014 9:53:48 PM PST]
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